Nutrition and Male Fertility

There is a growing body of scientific evidence to suggest that there may be a relationship between what men eat and their fertility, and this article summarizes some of the latest findings. But it's very important to keep in mind that dietary choices alone are unlikely to make all the difference. In addition, many of the scientific studies involved small groups of people, and in many cases further study of larger groups of people is needed before doctors can be sure of the results.

Just because researchers found that two things were associated with one another doesn't mean that one thing caused the other. Many of the things listed here coincide with general recommendations for good health, but check with your doctor before making major changes to your diet.

Possibly good for male fertility

The foods and nutrients that studies have shown might have a positive effect on male fertility include:

  • Fruits and vegetables: Yes, eat your veggies. Two studies found a link between high consumption of fruits and vegetables and sperm — one found better sperm motility, while the other found better sperm quality.
  • Fish and seafood: Three studies found an association between eating seafood — particularly fish — and male fertility. One found better sperm motility, a second found better sperm quality, and so did a third study, presented at the American Society for Reproductive Medicine's (ASRM's) 2013 annual conference. That study found that men who ate at least a half-portion of white fish every other day had better sperm quality than men who didn't eat it very often.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids: One study found that greater intake of omega-3 fatty acids (found in fish, particularly salmon, and flax oil) was associated with better sperm structure.
  • Carotenoids: These yellow, orange, and red plant pigments have been associated with higher sperm motility. The best-known is beta-carotene, found in carrots. Lycopene, found in tomatoes and watermelon, was associated with better sperm shape as well.
  • Walnuts: One study found that 75 grams of walnuts a day improved sperm vitality, motility, and shape. (Skepticism alert: The study was funded by a walnut growers' trade association.)
  • Micronutrients (in older men): One study found that men 44 and older who had more vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, zinc, and folate, either through diet or supplements, may produce less DNA-damaged sperm. Studies show that sperm carry more genetic damage as men get older.

Possibly bad for male fertility

The foods and nutrients that studies have shown might have a negative effect on male fertility include:

  • Saturated fats: Two studies found that eating a lot of foods containing saturated fats leads to a lower sperm concentration.
  • Processed meats: Three studies observed a relation between eating processed meats (such as hot dogs, salami, sausage, sandwich meats, bacon, etc.) and fertility. One found that sperm concentration was lower, another found reduced sperm motility, and a third, presented at the 2013 ASRM annual conference, found that men who ate a half-portion or more of processed meat each day didn't have as many normal-shaped sperm cells as men who ate less processed meat..
  • Red meat: One study involving in vitro fertilization with intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) found eating red meat was associated with lower implantation rates and lower chances of pregnancy.
  • Trans fats: Also known as trans fatty acids and often found as ingredients like hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils, one study found that the more trans fats men ate, the lower their sperm concentration.
  • Cholesterol: One study found that the more cholesterol in a man's diet, the lower the volume of semen he ejaculated.
  • Cheese (among smokers): One study found that smokers or ex-smokers who ate cheese had lower sperm concentration.
  • Caffeine and cola (in large quantities): One study found that having lots of caffeine — more than 800 milligrams a day — was associated with lower sperm concentration and lower total sperm count, particularly among cola drinkers. How much caffeine is 800 milligrams? Two Starbucks 20-ounce coffees contain 830 milligrams, while ten 20-ounce bottles of Diet Coke will give you 780 milligrams of caffeine. Moderate amounts of caffeine and cola had no observed effect on sperm.
  • Sweets: One study found that eating fewer sweets was correlated with better sperm motility.

What about dairy?

The jury's still out on dairy, though it's looking bad for full-fat dairy products such as whole milk. One study found that higher total dairy intake was associated with poor sperm structure, more so with full-fat dairy than low-fat. But another study found a link between low-fat dairy intake, particularly low-fat milk, and higher sperm concentration and motility. As already mentioned, men who've ever smoked appeared to have a lower sperm concentration if they eat cheese.

Weight, diet, smoking, and alcohol

There have been studies showing a link between being overweight and decreased sperm count. But the impact of men's body weight on actual fertility outcomes is not entirely clear. A 2014 study of more than 600 couples with fertility problems found that their fertility outcomes were generally not influenced by the male partner's weight, and the study did not find a statistically significant relationship between the man's weight and his sperm count.

The study that involved in vitro fertilization with intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) found that having a higher body mass index (BMI) and drinking alcohol had a negative influence on sperm concentration and motility. Smoking also negatively influenced sperm motility, and alcohol negatively influenced fertilization. Interestingly, while a high BMI negatively influenced sperm, being on a weight loss diet (presumably at or shortly before the time of conception) appeared to reduce the chances of pregnancy.

Male fertility and nutrition

The importance of nutrition to optimize male fertility was a hot topic at ASRM as well as the expo booth (check out the sperm bike photo!). Around 40% of infertility issues are attributed to men. Maintaining a healthy weight is an important as obesity in men can affect fertility by altering hormones levels which can affect sperm.

Eating a healthy diet is also important for healthy sperm. Harvard University researchers presented their data which compared the eating habits of 156 men undergoing IVF treatment with their partners. Men who consumed at least half a portion of processed meat a day (bacon, sausage) had fewer normal shaped sperm cells, compared to those who ate less processed meat. On the other hand, men who ate white fish at least every other day (about half a portion each day) had better sperm quality than those who ate it rarely.

- See more at: http://www.pcosnutrition.com/links/blogs/breaking-pcos-and-infertility-news-from-the-american-society-of-reproductive-medicine-asrm-conference.html#sthash.C3yiL7eh.dpuf

The importance of nutrition to optimize male fertility was a hot topic at ASRM as well as the expo booth (check out the sperm bike photo!). Around 40% of infertility issues are attributed to men. Maintaining a healthy weight is an important as obesity in men can affect fertility by altering hormones levels which can affect sperm.

Eating a healthy diet is also important for healthy sperm. Harvard University researchers presented their data which compared the eating habits of 156 men undergoing IVF treatment with their partners. Men who consumed at least half a portion of processed meat a day (bacon, sausage) had fewer normal shaped sperm cells, compared to those who ate less processed meat. On the other hand, men who ate white fish at least every other day (about half a portion each day) had better sperm quality than those who ate it rarely.

- See more at: http://www.pcosnutrition.com/links/blogs/breaking-pcos-and-infertility-news-from-the-american-society-of-reproductive-medicine-asrm-conference.html#sthash.C3yiL7eh.dpuf

The importance of nutrition to optimize male fertility was a hot topic at ASRM as well as the expo booth (check out the sperm bike photo!). Around 40% of infertility issues are attributed to men. Maintaining a healthy weight is an important as obesity in men can affect fertility by altering hormones levels which can affect sperm.

Eating a healthy diet is also important for healthy sperm. Harvard University researchers presented their data which compared the eating habits of 156 men undergoing IVF treatment with their partners. Men who consumed at least half a portion of processed meat a day (bacon, sausage) had fewer normal shaped sperm cells, compared to those who ate less processed meat. On the other hand, men who ate white fish at least every other day (about half a portion each day) had better sperm quality than those who ate it rarely.

- See more at: http://www.pcosnutrition.com/links/blogs/breaking-pcos-and-infertility-news-from-the-american-society-of-reproductive-medicine-asrm-conference.html#sthash.C3yiL7eh.dpuf

Updated August 2014